Top tips

Think about the type of information you need to find - this will often determine the tool you use

Using the right tool can save you time

Use Library Search and our databases to find peer-reviewed quality materials, and use these to cross-check information found on the internet

Assess your search strategy- can you be more specific?

Use filters in databases and search tools to narrow your results


Depending on what kind of information or content you are looking for, there are lots of different ways of finding and identifying relevant information.

Library Search

Library Search covers Imperial College London resources.

  • Search across Imperial Library's collections for print and electronic books, online and print journal titles, online database titles, maps, reports, theses, DVDs and CDs.
  • Check the location and availability for an item, access e-journals, e-books, online databases, and find maps, DVDs and CDs.
  • Reserve a book that's on loan, request an article or book via the Document Delivery Service, and view and renew the items you have.

Bibliographic databases

Bibliographic databases usually contain references, abstracts and full-text articles which have been carefully selected by subject specialists. There are specialist databases for each discipline, and while they share similarities in the way they are searched, they also have many differences. Check the Subject support tab on our website for your subject area and more details on the right databases for your subject.

The internet

As well as allowing access to the resources above, the internet provides a huge source of open information: search engines, subject gateways, personal web pages, blogs, wikis and social networking sites can all prove useful research resources.

It's important, however, to remember the disadvantages of using general internet content:

  • Information may not be of appropriate academic level or quality
  • Quantity of material can be overwhelming
  • Authenticity can be difficult or impossible to establish

Sites like Wikipedia can be useful, but do think about whether they are right for your assignment.

Too many results

When using Library Search, you may find a search based on general keywords or subjects returns many pages of results. Where possible, search using specific journal or book titles, or author names. Use specific keywords, and check out our search tips. 

If you can’t be more specific with your search terms you will need to filter your results. Most databases have tools you can use to refine your search. These allow you to specify a specific format (book, e-book, journal, article, etc.), date range, library location (we have 7 libraries), language, topic, journal title or author.

Too few results

Check your spelling. Sometimes a spelling error or typo is the reason for a lack of results.

Try searching other databases. Imperial has access to a number of subject-specific databases, so look for the one most relevant to your field. Use broader search terms to open up more results.